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James Ward RIP

On November 16th 2011, James Ernest Ward, Benemerenti, JP departed this life. 

Earlier in the year, on Sunday July 10th Mr James Ward, JP received the Papal Award, Bene Merenti, from Bishop David McGough in a ceremony during the Mass at Sacred Heart, Hanley. 

This award recognised his work over many years at Sacred Heart, and in the local community.

About the Benemerenti award
The Benemerenti medal was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832 and is conferred on those who have exhibited long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church, their families and community. The word benemerenti (often written as two words) means 'well deserving person'. It is an award made directly by the Pope and is infrequently granted. 
See the entry on Wikipedia (which mentions Jim) >> http://tinyurl.com/69x39ly

About Jim Ward, JP, Benemerenti
  • Born and baptised 1940, York
  • Early 1960s Organist and Choirmaster at St Mary’s, Boston.
  • 1971 moved to North Staffordshire and became organist and choirmaster at Sacred Heart, Hanley (for four years he simultaneously served St Mary’s, Leek).
  • For more than 30 years Jim has organised & presented the Annual Carol Service at Sacred Heart, which has achieved almost the status of a Civic Carol Service. The Lord Mayor always attends. 
  • Conductor and Choirmaster at the Victoria Hall for two large Deanery masses in the Jubilee Year 2000, and a mass in 2004 (Year of the Eucharist)
  • Jim was the ‘ghost writer’ of God will find a way  the autobiography of Fr James Dutton (onetime parish priest of Sacred Heart, Hanley). 
  • Justice of the Peace for more than 20 years
  • He is a leader member and former President of Newcastle Players
  • Jim is has been the Chairman of the Parish Finance Committee for at least 40 years. 
  • Jim has organised the Gift Aid (formerly Covenant scheme) for many years. 
  • He also served for many years as the Secretary to the Social Club. 
  • Jim has also served as Eucharistic Minster.   
  • Jim has written two mass settings which are regularly sung at Sacred Heart. 
  • Jim died on 15th November 2011

Fr Peter's words at Jim's funeral

As we got ready for the Christmas Carol Service in 2008 I was playing with one of my toys - a camera my family had bought me for my birthday earlier in the year. One of the photos I took is on the cover of the service sheet today [and at the top of this page]. I put the photo on the parish website when Jim was awarded the Benemerenti (It's still there - i've not yet updated the page). 
Since Jim died, several people have commented how well the photo captures him. That speaks not of the skill of photographer, of course, but of the disposition of the subject. 
It does present him so well - so much as we will remember him. 

Firstly, he stands there above us, smiling down upon us. We are his audience, and he embraces us. He just loved his audience, his choir, his congregation. Some say he was "larger than life". He was full of life, and he thrived in the public arena - in the theatre, in the Church, and perhaps (though I never stood in the dock before him) in the courtroom. He was a great servant of the community in so many ways, and known and loved by so many. 
When he would come to Presbytery, though he had a key to the house and the Parish Office he would always ring the bell three times. Whether the idea was that we should let him in or keep him out I'm not sure ... but we knew he was there. 

He did not spurn, but enjoyed the nicknames he might be given - Fr Molyneux called him "Jimbo", and long after he left the parish and sadly went to his own reward, Jim himself kept the name alive. 
His work as Secretary of the Social Club, led one member to call him "The man who puts the price of the beer up". I think he found this as a compliment rather than a rebuke. 
When we moved here one of our grandsons, recognising the three rings at the door and avuncular presence, and wishing to avoid confusion between our son James and James the organist, would announce to the rest of the house "It's Organin Jim". This stuck, especially with Jim, and he helpfully abbreviated it to O.J. Perhaps he liked the implied notoriety. When he phoned me he would always announce himself "OJ here", and it became a tradition for us to get him an Easter egg each year from Thorntons, iced with the letters "O.J."

Secondly, he looks down upon us from the pulpit. Actually it was only once a year he would stand up there - but he looks as though he enjoyed it! At the Carol Service it was his stage, as usually in this Church it was the organ console. He was an excellent organist - though I think he preferred to direct. 
He would give very clear directions. In this he was the master of the adjective. My contribution at the Carol Service would be posted on the running order not as an "address", still less as a "sermon", but as "brief homily (5 minutes)". As I told him on more than one occasion, I never saw the same strictures applied to his own interventions. Similarly, for this funeral (and yesterday evening), he has stipulated "appropriate organ voluntary" and "good quality recording" - as if we would chose something that was not!

And thirdly, as he faces us, we see not only his expansive smile, and his joy in his role, but also the crucifix, the symbol of his Faith. Jim's faith was not sentimental, nor was it pious in the common meaning of that word, but if was deep. He expressed his faith in immensely practical ways. It was the offering of his life, the giving of himself in service. 
In this parish he did so many things, and knew so much from experience gained over his 38 years here. He had helped and supported so many priests here and was more friend than parishioner. When I came here, Canon David advised me that in so many matters Jim was the man to consult and from whom to seek advice, and this was sound guidance. His service of the Church and community was recognised by the award of papal medal Benemerenti, and I do not need to add again here how well merited was that award, and how overjoyed Jim was to receive it. 

His practical faith and his commitment in service was seen most clearly in the manner of his dying. In the summer, Jim asked me to go and see him. I think we all knew that Jim was not at all well and not apparently improving, and it was then that he told me that all the treatment he could receive was exhausted, and the doctors had told him that it was just a matter of time. It wasn't surprising news, but that didn't make the moment any less poignant. His attitude was remarkable - one of sorrow, but of acceptance, of trust in God. There was no bitterness, no anger and so far as I could tell, no fear either. 
"So what do you plan to do, Jim?" I said. "Go on a cruise?" 
"No, Father," he replied, "I'm going to carrying on doing the things that I do for as long as I can. You won't have to drag me off the organ stool," he said, "but I will carry on for as long as I can play." 
He was true to his word. On November 6th he played the organ for the last time at Sacred Heart. He was clearly getting weaker - but he still managed to get the same volume from the pipes! He  was becoming aware of his limitations ... but even then he was determined to carry on  ... He sent me an email on 8th November about a range of matters concerned with Parish Finance, though in conclusion he suggested perhaps the time had come to appoint someone as an assistant Gift Aid organiser, "to eventually take over". In the days that followed he was still at the organ - he played in Church for the last time at a funeral in Birches Head on 10th November. It was just a few days later that he was taken from us after a mercifully short time of complete incapacity. His final act of practical consideration for the Church and this parish is directing that your donations be offered here. We thank his friend and neighbour, John Plumb, for being, at least for today, the assistant Gift Aid organiser!

One regret we all surely have is that Jim did not make it to conduct the 30th Annual Carol Service, a firm institution in Church life in North Staffordshire which he began with Fr Dutton in 1982. He was looking forward to this, and he will be sorely missed. Please take this as my invitation to all of you to join with us at 7.30pm on Sunday December 18th, the Sunday before Christmas, for a Carol Service which will be dedicated to his memory. (No tickets required this year!)

Jim's faith was a faith expressed in worship, in music and in service. It was a life offered to God and offered to you, his audience, his congregation and his choir. 
Well done, good and faithful servant!